My Appreciation – Part 1

I am very honored to receive the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s award for outstanding scholarly work this year – and all the congratulations from friends and colleagues in our field.

It is particularly flattering considering the great number of folks in our community who deserve recognition for their valuable scholarship and other important work.

This Section has been my professional home for almost all of my academic career.  So, coming from our community, this honor is particularly meaningful for me.

I have had the good fortune to attend almost all of the Section’s annual conferences and legal educators’ colloquia since 2002.  Each year, I looked forward to the conferences as reunions with friends and opportunities to develop new connections.  I played fabled games of hearts with many of you.  I used my patented process to produce people’s appearances of merriment, collected in these photo albums.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the conference next month at the award ceremony.  I know that some people can’t be there in person but will be there in spirit.

This post describes how I “got here” and invites you to read some of my writing.

My Story

I came of age in the 1960s and 70s.  Like many of my generation – and many in our community – I was outraged by historic injustices in our society that persisted in my lifetime.  It was a time of major social conflicts that were handled quite badly.

There was a saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  I have always wanted to make a difference.  Helping people handle conflict as well as possible has been the fundamental motivation for my scholarship.

I started law school in 1977 at Hastings (now UC Law San Francisco) and was active in the public interest law world there.  Over time, I realized that, although advocacy was important, it didn’t fit my personality – and that negotiation and mediation could be important tools for social progress.

Upon graduation, I knew that I was incompetent as a lawyer.  It wasn’t just me, though.  Law schools didn’t – and still don’t – train students to do many of the basic tasks of lawyering.  So I designed my own post-graduate internship, doing contract work for various lawyers in San Francisco.

Considering my feelings about advocacy and lack of skills, it wasn’t surprising that I hated lawyering.  In 1982, I heard Gary Friedman give a presentation about mediation, and I took mediation training from him and others.  I ran a solo law and mediation practice in the mid-1980s so that I could practice mediation.

In 1984, I published my first scholarly article, Mediation Paradigms and Professional Identities.  Fisher and Ury had published Getting to Yes in 1981, and I used interest-based procedures in my mediations.  I naively assumed that this was the mediation paradigm.  Even so, this article provided a broad vision of the mediation field as I hoped it would develop.

I got the idea for my academic career when I took an undergraduate sociology of law course from Joe Sanders at the University of Michigan in 1972.  He had a JD and PhD, and the course included readings of appellate cases and empirical research as well as insights from his experience in practice.

I particularly remember reading a classic empirical study, Settled Out of Court, by H. Laurence Ross.  He studied how automobile insurance claims adjusters handled claims, most of which were settled – usually without involvement of lawyers or courts.  The real-life processes and decisions he observed in handling the large volume of routine small claims looked nothing like legal procedures or rules.  I was excited to read empirical research because I wanted to better understand how things really worked, not just the dominant fairy-tale-like theories.

Thinking of Joe Sanders’s model, in 1989, I went to grad school in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to learn about the real world of law and dispute resolution, help get an academic position, and promote constructive conflict management.

I was oh-so-fortunate to land at Missouri in 2000 to direct our LLM Program in Dispute Resolution, which I did until Paul Ladehoff succeeded me in 2011.  I retired (from teaching and faculty meetings) in 2015 but I continued to write.

In addition to Gary and Joe, I have had many, many other great teachers, mentors, and supporters along the way including – but definitely not limited to – Bob Bailey, Ken Dean, Larry Dessem, Laurie Edelman, Howie Erlanger, Mary Foran, Susan Fuszard, Marc Galanter, Rafael Gely, Gerry Glynn, Thelton Henderson, Tim Heinsz, Lee Jordan, Ron Kelly, Ilhyung Lee, David Matz, Len Riskin, Nancy Rogers, Peter Salem, Jean Sternlight, Mark Suchman, Janet Viglino, and Jennae Wallach as well as members of my family.  And certainly including my wife, Ann Harrell.

Real Practice Systems Annotated Bibliography

Gary Doernhoefer, the founder of ADR Notable, has followed my work, and he recognized that our ideas complement each other’s.  He first asked me to produce a set of checklists for mediators using his app and then asked me to create a list of my “greatest hits” for his users.  This prompted me to produce an annotated bibliography related to the Real Practice System Project I have been developing.  This turned out to be a wee bit longer than either of us expected.

The bibliography contains law review articles and books – and a lot of blog posts and short unpublished articles posted on SSRN.  I joined Indisputably ten years ago to disseminate and elaborate my ideas on a wide range of topics, reaching a larger audience more quickly than with my longer pieces.  The bibliography includes brief summaries of more than 100 Indisputably posts.

Producing the bibliography was incredibly satisfying.  It is a mosaic of my publications about various topics.  In retrospect, it was clear how each line of my scholarship led to the next and culminated in the Real Practice System Project.  And the bibliography organizes the material in a logical way to help readers easily find what they are interested in.

Here’s the outline.

● Introduction
● Overview of Real Practice Systems Theory
● Critiques of Traditional Dispute Resolution Theories
● Promotion of Party Decision-Making
● Litigation Interest and Risk Assessment
● Preparation for Mediation Sessions
● Technology Systems
● Planned Early Dispute Resolution
● Dispute System Design
● Applications in Court Systems
● Applications in Legal Education

I want to use this occasion to invite you to check out the bibliography and use ideas and materials that would enhance your work.

It makes great reading on a plane ride, over spring break, or as procrastination to lift your spirits when you need a break from grading.  A perfect gift for any occasion.

Take a look.

2 thoughts on “My Appreciation – Part 1”

  1. You deserve it, John. You keep studying and learning, knowing that learning never stops. But most important, you keep updated the field, generating new ideas and ways to considerer ADR…¿or better DSD?

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